by Arch Hoercher
Grace – what is grace? Such a simple word. If one wanted to define the Old Testament with one word that word for me would be “Law”. If I wanted to define the New Testament with one word, that word would be “Grace”. Looking back to the short study of God’s Love and God’s Mercy, grace would have never happened if either God’s Love or God’s Mercy did not exist.
So, let’s first try to define grace then we will get into some Bible study of grace. In the Greek text of the New Testament, “charis” occurs over 170 times which is translated to grace. The reading is uncertain in places primarily because secular Greek has far more meanings for the word than can be represented by any one term in English. We will stick with the English translation of the Greek texts as we see in our New Testaments of today. One of the most frequent definitions of Grace that I learned growing up is: God’s unmerited favor. Another that is common is: God’s undeserved and unearned pardon. Both of these are correct, but both are also incorrect. God’s grace is much bigger and more complex than that. Most of us are familiar with the scripture, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. A pastor friend of mine said that to get a better understanding of what Grace is, was to substitute the word “Grace” for “Word” in this scripture. When you do, you get: In the beginning was Grace, Grace was with God and Grace was God. The idea he was trying to get across is that Grace is as big as God. It is part of His very nature. You can no more try to limit and define God and shove Him into a box than you can for Grace.
In the Bible, Grace is described as: All-abundant, all-sufficient, exceeding, glorious, great, manifold and sovereign. It is the source of: consolation, election, faith, forgiveness of sins, hope, justification and salvation. Grace is each one of these things and at the same time all of these things. One thing a person does not want to do is narrow the meaning of Grace and force that meaning into all Biblical passages. A rigid definition of Grace is hardly possible, but still a single conception is actually present in almost every case where “Grace” is found – the conception is that all a Christian has or is, is centered exclusively in God and Christ, and depends utterly on God through Christ.
Now for some Bible study. First, look at Ephesians 2:4-9: “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (NIV) So there you have it, grace depends wholly upon God and Jesus Christ. Salvation and eternal life in His presence is a gift. A gift is not earned. If it were earned it would be a wage. Salvation and eternal life in His presence can never be obtained through works of any kind. Works cannot earn salvation and works cannot maintain salvation once you have it. Salvation is given and maintained by grace. John Stott said that “Grace is God Loving, God stooping, God coming to the rescue, God giving himself generously in and through Jesus Christ.
Titus 3: 3-7: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”(NIV) Again, we are justified and have the hope of eternal life, not by anything we have done, but because of everything God has done through Jesus Christ. We were saved because of His mercy, not because of how righteous we might think that we are.
Romans 11:6: “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (NIV) Grace cannot be grace if works has anything to do with it. What you have as a Christian is because of God’s grace. Works has nothing to do with your position in God’s kingdom. Grace is available to all believers no matter at what level. Works leads to pride and feelings of superiority. Wherever one is at in their spiritual walk is totally dependent upon God’s grace through Jesus Christ. It has nothing to do with you but all to do with Him. Without grace one would be dead in their transgressions. Pride and a holier than thou attitude has no place in God’s kingdom or it’s people. Everything that we are as a Christian is because of God through Jesus Christ, not because of any individual effort.